Review: After He Died, by Michael J. Malone


You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…

When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

I’m guessing it must be a bit of challenge to write authentically from the point of view of the opposite sex, but I’ve read (or listened to) a few books lately where the author seems to be able to do just that. After He Died, by Michael J. Malone is one of them.

The story starts with Paula Gadd being approached by Cara Connolly at the funeral of her husband, Thomas, and the note she is handed sends her on a path where the truth seems to want to stay tantalisingly out of reach. Cara blames Thomas for the death of her own brother, but how can Paula trust what she’s being told, when the man being described is nothing like the man she’d been married to for many years?

Michael expertly spins a tale of mystery from a web of family relationships, where the faces people portray are thin masks hiding their problems – or ambition. After He Died is an entertaining novel that keeps you hooked, with an ending that does not disappoint.

Oh, and I should mention that After He Died is published by Karen Sullivan’s Orenda Books. If ever there was a mark of quality, Orenda is it!


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Review: Dark Pines, by Will Dean

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.
Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.
A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.
Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She’d like to think so. But first, she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

Next up in my catch-up of missed reviews from 2018 is Dark Pines. Now here’s a question. Will Dean has published two books in his Tuva Moodyson series. So how the hell do I find myself with five different versions? It’s actually quite straight-forward (and with books being the only vice I’m going to admit to, it’s fair enough, I think). I bought Dark Pines on Kindle, but didn’t get around to reading it, even after hearing great things. Because I did hear great things, I got a signed paperback at CrimeFest in 2018. Still didn’t read it, but when I saw the Audible companion for a bargain price, I picked that up to (three versions now). That was my mistake.

Why a mistake, I hear you ask? I’ll tell you why. Because Dark Pines is read by Maya Lindh, and it is a fantastic narration. Maya’s voice is Tuva’s. Maya is a Swedish actress living in London, and her accent is perfect for the book. Even the odd word pronounced differently to how I’d pronounce it, makes me smile in a good way.

So when I picked up a signed copy of Red Snow at a Waterstones event in Picadilly a couple of weeks back (with Will Dean on the left of this photo, who isn’t the giant this photo seems to show!), I just had to spend an Audible credit on an audio copy too, just so that Maya can read it to me. Five versions!

Will Dean

Anyway, this is supposed to be a review of Dark Pines, but it’s going to be brief:

Fantastic atmospheric Scandi noir crime book. Tuva Moodyson is a wonderful protagonist, and the portrayal of her deafness feels very authentic and allows the author to put her in some sticky situations. The story is great, with plenty of suspects to keep you guessing, and going back to the word atmospheric, Will creates a very real feeling of claustrophobia in ten thousand acres of forest. I’m guessing living in a log cabin in a forest in the middle of Sweden will give you that sense of authenticity. Brilliant book – go buy it. I’m about to cue up Maya to read Red Snow to me!

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Review: Trust Me, by Angela Clarke



What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.

Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

Although this is the third in Angela’s social media murderer series, Trust Me works well as a standalone. Freddie Venton, working in a civilian consultant type role, and DS Nas Cudmore are both strong female leads, and whilst previous books give you their history, it’s easy to pick up and see how their almost dysfunctional partnership works well.

As you would expect, the dark side of social media plays a big part here. Kate’s a reliable type, but she’s had some wine and the police find her less than credible when she reports seeing a murder take place online. But Freddie and Nas are the perfect duo to take up the case, even if Freddie will often speak (and act) before she’s really thought about it – the perfect trait for an author to place her in jeopardy.

Trust Me is a great read, and the perfect filler to tide you over until Angela’s next book, the highly anticipated On My Life, is published on 7 March 2019.


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Review: The Third Wave, by Karla Forbes


Charles Morgan is a small operator in the vast computer technology industry but he has big ambitions. He borrows heavily from the Mafia to finance his dreams of becoming a big player but when he fails to make the expected profit, they are quick to demand their money back. Desperate to save his own skin, he hatches a plan that will cripple the competition and propel his new product into the ranks of market leader.

Bryony Elliot is a brilliant but naive British student who has the skills he needs to bring his plans to fruition. But she is refusing to cooperate. With time running out and his creditors’ threats becoming increasingly vicious, Morgan gives up on persuasion and employs deceit instead. Unaware of the true situation, Bryony launches a catastrophic virus attack on society. When she discovers that she has been used, she frantically attempts to stop the carnage she has wrought but she is up against violent men who are intent on stopping her.

Bryony must dig deep into her mental reserves to stay alive and reverse the damage but first, she must conquer the fears and demons that rule her life.
For Bryony has dark secrets of her own…

This is the second Nick Sullivan thriller (I reviewed Fallout here), and after having initial misgivings with the narration of that book, I was pleased to hear the familiar voice of Craig Bowles reading again.

Previously on the run, Nick was surviving by his wits and is pretty much doing the same again here. The stakes are just as high (although Nick doesn’t know that for most of the story), and I enjoyed the mystery of trying to work out what was going on.

Two niggles for me. I’m not convinced that Nick’s character would have done what he did on the boat (no spoilers), but maybe that’s just me. That’s minor. The more significant one that annoyed me more is that Nick is a bit too physical with women in this story. I’m not sure how many times he took hold of Bryony and shook her. Not the worst thing for a protagonist to do, but it did knock down his likeability for me.

But that aside, I enjoyed the story and the climax was very good.

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Review: Guarded Prognosis, by Richard L. Mabry MD


When Dr. Caden Taggart saw the two men sitting in his waiting room, he didn’t think they were patients. He was right, and when they introduced themselves as agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, things started to get bad.

Then Caden felt as though someone had gut-punched him when his father, Dr. Henry Taggart, told him he probably had carcinoma of the pancreas. When he talked about his son assisting with his suicide, Caden wondered how he could talk him out of that.

When he shared his news with his wife, Beth, she tried to assure Caden that God was in control. But as things progressed, he was unsure that was true. At first, he feared for his freedom. Then for his ability to cope. Eventually, he feared for his life.

This was the first medical thriller I’ve ‘read’ (via Audible) for some time (I think the last one was probably a Michael Crichton, in the 80s!), and this one was written by an actual MD, although I’m pleased that it wasn’t too heavy with medical jargon – although it did stray a little on occasion.

How best to review this book? Mmm…

The positives: The story held enough to interest me, although I found that you do have to suspend belief a little, especially in the supposed exploits of the DEA agents. The author creates a believable medical setting without being too technical. Narration was generally pretty good, and I was keen to find out what would happen to both Doctor Taggarts.

The not so positives: Not the fastest paced thriller out there. I’m normally okay with that if the story and characters can carry you along. The story was okay (with only a few bits that irritated me), but the characters? Wow, annoying. The author, I believe, was in practice from the 1960s, and his characters belong there. Old-fashioned in their outlook, behaviour, and lifestyle, they add a layer of unrealism to the story rather than bring it to life. There’s not much mystery here either. We know who the bad guys are from the off, with the only unknown being the insider. We’re only really introduced to a couple of the people at the practice, so there aren’t many candidates. And I guess like my medical professionals to place a little more reliance on science, and a little less on God.

All in all, mildly entertaining, but not the best out there.


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Book Review: A Murder of Crows, by Ian Skewis



I listened to this on audiobook through, read by the author himself.

Here’s the blurb:

The most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above a sleepy village on the West Coast of Scotland.

A young couple take shelter in the woods, never to be seen again…

DCI Jack Russell is brought in to investigate. Nearing retirement, he agrees to undertake one last case, which he believes can be solved as a matter of routine.

But what Jack discovers in the forest leads him to the conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a serial killer…

Russel McLean wrote of this book in 2014: There are shades of Iain Banks’ early works in here, and that is a very good thing.’ He’s dead right.

This is a dark novel with a wide cast of characters, most with their own agendas, and some there just to muddy the waters. A feeling of the preternatural is never far away with this story, and you can’t help but feel that things might just step into the supernatural. But the author manages to prolong both suspense and the sense of foreboding without that happening.

DCI Jack Russell – almost literally a dogged-detective- is our protagonist, but he doesn’t actually play that big a role in the story. He’s there throughout, with a decent secret of his own to spring on the unsuspecting reader, but I think he could have perhaps played a slightly bigger part, maybe by dropping one of the other detectives. That said, everyone has a role to play, and they play it well.

I’ve maybe read a few too many crime novels, as I managed to guess where Alistair was to be found, but I must admit, the killer did catch me by surprise! All in all, I really enjoyed this one. I nearly got annoyed when I thought things weren’t going to be all neatly tied up, but I was saved. Remember: “Nothing ever ends, not really. Everything is a prelude, a prologue, to something else…”

I heard Ian read an extract from A Murder of Crows at Noir at the Bar in Harrogate earlier this year (he’s in the middle, white shirt and tie), and was pleased to be able to listen to the rest on audiobook.



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Review: Don’t Make a Sound, by David Jackson


You can’t choose your family. Or can you?

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.


D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

If ever there was a book that would make you stop and question why an author isn’t yet a household name, Don’t Make a Sound is the one for David Jackson.

Don’t let the subject matter put you off. This is well-written and skilfully handled, but don’t think that you’re in for an easy ride. Jackson keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, showing us the peril Daisy is facing on a daily basis, and also putting Nathan Cody in a situation that is perhaps the worse position a man with his past can find himself in.

I was less than half-way through the book when I tweeted this:

Don't Make A Sound

That was what I was thinking by Chapter 15, and the book just got better and better. And just when I thought it was all over, the twist came, kicking my feet out from under me and stomping me where it hurts. Boy, I didn’t see that coming! Fantastic. And just a little bit disturbing, making you question everything you thought.

The future of crime fiction is bright, with David Jackson shining very brightly indeed!

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